On a Riverfront
In 2005 an acoustic ecologist claimed that the quietest square inch in the world was in the Olympic National Park forest near the Hoh River Trail, but that’s only when backpackers don’t settle on the hike-in sites that overlook the rocky Hoh River. If the few official clearings every few miles fill up—at some the guests are gear-hauling lamas and mules—the gravel bar on the river itself is up for grabs.
Claim It: Most sites in the first 10 miles of the flat trail are first-come, first-served, but overnighters need a permit from the trailhead visitor station ($5 per person) and to pay the $20-per-car park fee. nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hoh-river-trail.htm
In the Backwoods
It can be terrifying to wander far from the cozy embrace of the family minivan. What if you need its shelter? Its heated seats? The headlamp you forgot between backseat cushions? Placid Barclay Lake, just 2.2 fairly flat miles up from a trailhead near Highway 2, is just far enough from civilization to count as a backpacking trip but close enough to make beer runs. Somewhat remote lakeside sites whet the appetite for bigger adventures.
Claim It: Pay $5 or hang a Northwest Forest Pass from the rearview mirror. www.fs.usda.gov/mbs
On the Beach
When Seattle feels like an average day inside a pizza oven, Shi Shi Beach on the Pacific coast is blessedly chilled by the wind off the ocean, plus it’s the best sunset theater in the world. Headlands bookend the Olympic National Park beach, a popular backpacking destination, and even on crowded summer weekends there’s room for dozens of tents along the bleached driftwood perimeter. Head south past Point of the Arches for fewer crowds and more tide pools.
Claim It Score an overnight permit ($5 per person) and a bear canister rental (don’t feed the animals!) at the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center. nps.gov/olym
In a Yurt
Why settle for a pup tent when there are cheery green yurts at Cape Disappointment State Park equipped with bunk beds and heaters? Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the turbulent mouth of the Columbia River is documented in an interpretive center nearby, and, while the North Head Lighthouse is closed for renovations in 2016, old army batteries and Maya Lin’s Confluence artwork provide distraction.
Claim It Reserve one of 14 $69 yurts as soon as you know your travel dates and bring a Discover Pass or pay the $10 daily fee. parks.state.wa.us/486/cape-disappointment
On a Lakefront
Crowds nearly clog the river at Salmon La Sac Campground near Cle Elum throughout summer. But just a few miles beyond the masses, Owhi Campground boasts 22 walk-in tent sites—all the convenience of car camping without having to look at the back of your 4Runner. Every site is on quiet Cooper Lake, warm enough for a brisk swim and angled toward a killer mountain panorama.
Claim It Sites are $14 per night and ideal for groups. www.fs.usda.gov/okawen
Outside a Campground
Campgrounds mean fire pits and picnic tables, sometimes even flush toilets and RV hookups. Dispersed camping means anything outside a campground, which is allowed in forest service land but not in national parks. The proper campgrounds along the Mountain Loop Highway east of Granite Falls fill quickly, but clear patches along the road make an ideal first step into eating off a log and—gasp—using nature when nature calls. Many have handmade fire circles, but fire bans may apply.
Claim It Look for clear spots in the trees and set up camp at least 100 feet from the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. www.fs.usda.gov/mbs
At a Fort
It’s okay to be bored by trees. Coastal Fort Flagler State Park, on an island just east of Port Townsend, blends the nature stuff with nineteenth-century artillery batteries, now overgrown relics perfect for exploring. Two campgrounds, one on the lower beach and another in the upper forest, have 61 tent sites and 55 RV spots, and history experts lead weekend tours of gun emplacements and a 1905 military hospital. No army ever invaded Puget Sound, but you can’t say we weren’t ready.
Claim It Reserve online and bring a Discover Pass (or pay the $10 one-time fee). parks.state.wa.us/508/fort-flagler
Really Close to Home
Sometimes you need an escape strategy that doesn’t involve dark, twisty mountain roads. Though Denny Creek Campground is technically located between the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-90, 50 easy freeway miles from Seattle, it’s relatively quiet and close to family-friendly trails. And there’s no shame in bailing in the middle of the night.
Claim It Reserve $20 sites in advance, since convenience means crowds. www.fs.usda.gov/mbs